|Directed by||Wilfred Jackson|
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Written by||Pinto Colvig|
|Music by||Leigh Harline|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|October 5, 1935|
In an attempt to bridge the gap between classical music and jazz, the short features music from Beethoven's Eroica and Wagner's The Ride of the Valkyries as well as various popular classical, jazz and miscellaneous tunes. The film contains no actual speech, but has the characters instead communicate with musical tones, with each 'speaking' through use of the sound of the particular instrument upon which they are based.
According to Leonard Maltin, the film's story originated in the genuine musical dilemma of American society; some people in the 1930s viewed jazz as the end of civilisation, similar to how some parents today tend to be perplexed by their children's music interests. Incidentally, the tenor saxophone character is a caricature of "King of Jazz", Paul Whiteman.
The film was edited into Disneyland: Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom in 1959 with reorchestrated music and Professor Owl's narration, and was featured in Walt Disney Cartoon Classics Limited Gold Edition II: The Disney Dream Factory (1985), The Best of Disney: 50 Years of Magic (1991), Songs of the Silly Symphonies (2001), and The Making of 'Pinocchio': No Strings Attached (2009).
In an exhibition of "some of the most inspired and memorable uses of classical music in animation", the film was screened in its entirety at 'What's Opera, Doc? – Animation and Classical Music' as part of the 'Marc Davis Celebration of Animation' hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills in May 2010.
The short begins by showing a map of Music Land, before zooming in to show the Land of Symphony. The Land of Symphony is a classical-themed kingdom, where the princess (an anthropomorphicized violin) grows bored with the slow ballroom dancing and sneaks out.
Across the Sea of Discord, the Isle of Jazz is a jazz-themed kingdom alive with hot jazz music and dancing, but the prince (an alto saxophone) takes little interest in it. Sneaking out, he spots the princess across the sea with the aid of a clarinet-telescope, and instantly falls in love with her. He quickly travels across the sea on a xylophone boat to meet her.
Their flirting is interrupted, however, when the princess's mother (a cello) of the Land of Symphony sends her guards to lock him in a metronome prison tower. To escape this predicament, he writes a note for help (the melody of The Prisoner's Song) and passes it to a bird, which brings it to his father (a tenor saxophone), who raises the battle cry (a jazz version of the military Assembly (bugle call)).
The Isle of Jazz deploys its multi-piece band as artillery, bombarding the Land of Symphony with explosive musical notes to a jazz/swing number. The Land of Symphony returns fire via organ pipes that rotate into cannons, launching musical interceptors to the refrains of Wagner's The Ride of the Valkyries.
The princess intervenes to stop the war by waving the flag of surrender, but falls into the sea when a symphony note hit her boat. The prince struggles to escape his cell, but an explosive note helps him by landing next to it and blowing it up, and he rushes to save her, but ends up struggling as well. Both parents see what is happening, and quickly cease fire to rescue their children. When they got their children, separated them from each other, and started to glare at each other, the king starts taking a liking to the queen, and decided to make peace via handshake. The story ends on a happy note with a double wedding, between the prince and princess, and the king and queen, presided over by a double bass minister, as the citizens of both lands dance on the newly built Bridge of Harmony and a rainbow with musical notes all over appears over it in the sky.
The Austin Chronicle writes that as one of the earliest of the Silly Symphonies, "Music Land is a place fraught with tension, with the Sea of Discord lying between the Isle of Jazz and the Land of Symphony", and that the action is hardly as dramatic as Saving Private Ryan. It is noted that "It is the first glimpse, as well, of a critical aspect of animating inanimates: how to use an object's structural particulars -- the tuning peg on a cello, the mouthpiece on a saxophone -- to best effect."
In Dictionary of films by Georges Sadoul and Peter Morris, it is offered that the film has "an extraordinary range of graphic design and an imaginative use of sound."
- "The Disney Dream Factory". Austin Chronicle. September 14, 1998. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
- Marcus, Kenneth H. Musical metropolis: Los Angeles and the creation of a music culture, 1880-1940. illustrated ed. Macmillan; 2004 [cited June 8, 2010]. ISBN 1-4039-6419-X. p. 182.
- Dinerstein, Joel (2003). Swinging the machine: modernity, technology, and African American culture between the World Wars (illustrated ed.). University of Massachusetts Press. pp. 54â55. ISBN 1-55849-383-2.
- BWW Newsdesk (April 27, 2010). "AMPAS Hosts 'What's Opera, Doc? Animation and Classical Music". Broadway World. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
- "What's Opera, Doc? – Animation and Classical Music". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
- Georges Sadoul and Peter Morris (1972). Peter Morris, ed. Dictionary of films (illustrated ed.). University of California Press. p. 342. ISBN 0-520-02152-5.